Part of the healing process for addicts is letting go of the secrecy surrounding their disease, said Patti Shafer, and when her daughter performs a one-woman show in Greenbelt based on her struggle with alcoholism, that too will be part of the healing process for her and her family.
Patti Shafer's daughter, Takoma Park resident Amie Shafer, 30, will bring the one-woman act “Divine Intervention” to the Greenbelt Arts Center on Friday for a six-show run over two weekends, in the hope that it helps heal the audience, as well.
Shafer wrote the play — the story of her mother's alcoholism and how it affected her — as a final project while studying theater at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia in 2005. She performed the show once while at the school and in a three-show run in 2006.
“It helped me heal, and I didn't expect that,” Shafer said. “It helped me move past my mother's alcoholism. And I didn't expect it to help other people who had alcoholic parents, or divorced parents or had gone through some kind of trauma, but they came up to me and said how cathartic it was for them.”
The play is set at Christmas, and though it may have hot chocolate, popcorn balls and presents, Shafer and director Misha R'kingsley said it's not appropriate for children.
“It's definitely for mature audiences,” said R'kingsley, 44, of Greenbelt.
Shafer said she doesn't think too much about the fact that it's her own story that the audience is hearing.
“I'm an open book,” she said. “But then I think about my family and how people might think about them, and that makes me nervous.”
Some things in the play have been changed — like the ending, which does not reflect her mother's recovery and Shafer's healing process — but for the most part she said, it's based on her experiences.
“Almost everything in this play happened, it just didn't necessarily happen at Christmas,” Shafer said, adding that the Christmas theme unites the experiences for the audience.
R'kingsley — once Shafer's high school drama teacher at Herndon High School in Virginia — is the founder and president of Transitions Theatre, a social outreach theater company focused on performing plays about how people transition after major life events. The company was formed in 2008, and this is its second show. In July 2010, R'kingsley directed “Greenbelt Voices,” a play based on interviews with Greenbelt residents about their experiences living in the community.
Working with her former student feels very natural, R'kingsley said.
“I know what she can do,” said R'kingsley, who had not seen the show in its earlier form but had read the script. “When I needed a show [for Greenbelt Arts Center], I knew exactly what she could give me.”
R'kingsley is now working on a show called “Question Normality,” where she turns interviews with mental health workers and people with mental health disorders into a series of monologues.
With an education in both theater and social work, R'kingsley said she believes in the healing power of telling and performing a story.
Patti Shafer, who lives in Herndon, has now been sober for more than three years. She's helping with the production and will be there for two of the six shows running over two weekends, she said.
“I'm so proud of Amie,” Patti Shafer said. “It takes so much courage to be able to put yourself out there like that and tell your story. If my story can help somebody else, then I'm all for it.”